Fungal Toenails: Infections in Your Nails

Skin and nails are strong, flexible tissues designed to keep pathogens and foreign objects out of your body. In general, they do a good job. Most debris and infectious invaders are kept out because they are acting as barriers. However, even these tissues are vulnerable to certain infections. Some problems, like fungal toenails, can be hard to eliminate, too.

Fungal Foot Damage

Fungus grows all over in the environment. The varieties that can infect the skin and nails are microscopic pathogens. Fungal toenails develop when the microorganisms get under the hard keratin and your toes provide them with the right atmosphere to thrive. Typically, this happens when you have micro-cuts in the skin next to your nails or a tiny separation between the keratin and your nail bed. If your feet are frequently warm and sweaty, the environment is just right to foster an infection. The fungus settles in under your nails and begins to grow.

As the microbes grow and multiply, the keratin develops visible damage. Your nails become brittle, discolored, distorted, and thickened. The ends may break and become ragged or crumbly. Sometimes the keratin loosens and pulls away from the nail bed. You may notice debris trapped under the nail and a yellowish coloring. As the problem worsens and the affected nails distort more, they may become painful and emit a somewhat foul smell.

Catching the Infection

Because the infection-causing fungus exists in the environment around you, exposure to it can happen almost anywhere. Warm, damp locations have a particularly high risk, though. Places like pools, locker rooms, public showers, community bathrooms, and saunas are all common breeding grounds for the pathogen. Walking barefoot in these places is an easy way to contract fungal toenails. Direct exposure to the nails or footwear of someone else with the infection can also pass it on to you.

However the problem develops, it doesn’t improve on its own. It can, though, worsen and spread to other toes or even your skin, creating athlete’s foot. The condition weakens your toes’ protection, making your more vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections. This is particularly serious if you have diabetes, since your immune system is already vulnerable. You need intentional care to eliminate the problem and restore your foot to full health.

Expelling the Fungus from Your Feet

Dr. Paul C. LaFata and our West Lawn Podiatry Associates team will carefully examine your toenails to diagnose the exact cause of the changes. Our staff may scrape a sample of keratin from the top of the nail to test it and confirm the pathogen. Then we can help you move forward with treatment.

There are several approaches to eliminating fungal toenails. Anti-fungal creams, ointments, sprays, powders, and even nail lacquer help destroy the pathogen on the surface of your skin and nails. This method does help, but it is limited. The medication isn’t able to penetrate the hard keratin to impact the infection underneath very easily. Oral medications help reach the infection where the topical creams can’t go—the medicine travels through the blood stream to target the problem in the nail bed.

In some cases, removing the infected nail and cleaning out the damaged, infected tissue helps. Your nail or portions of your nail will be excised and your nail bed treated carefully. You’ll also need to treat your footwear to eliminate lingering pathogens in the lining and fabric. No matter how your nails are managed, though, the recovery will take a little time. Failing to deal with the problem, however, will only allow it to get worse and make it harder to manage.

You don’t have to worry about or be embarrassed by discolored nails . With a little care, Dr. Paul C. LaFata and our West Lawn Podiatry Associates team can help you clear up your fungal nails and restore your toes to full health. Just contact our office in the West Lawn, PA area for an appointment . Call (610) 678-4581 or use the web request form to reach us.